Curitiba (Brazil), Bogotá (Colombia), Bristol (UK) and Makindye Ssabagabo (Uganda). These are the four cities officially invited to collaborate in the open innovation initiative Climate Smart Cities Challenge, with the aim of developing, testing and scaling cutting-edge solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

With the cities and respective challenges selected, the four cities will work on confirming arrangements, stakeholder engagement and challenge definition with support from the Climate Smart Cities Challenge partners: Smart City Sweden, UN-Habitat, Viable Cities, Vinnova, Teknikföretagen, the Swedish Energy Agency, Business Sweden and Nesta Challenges.

The work will result in an open innovation contest which will be launched at the Dubai Expo in October 2021.

Maria Rosendahl, Head of Industrial Policy, Teknikföretagen, said: “We are facing an age of unprecedented possibilities. In order to make the most of them, we must focus on how we support innovation and development. Whether it is through new business models, aggressive business policy, modern regulations or joint efforts. The focus should be the same.”

The selected cities were chosen from applicants from all over the world through an open call application phase. The Climate Smart Cities Challenge focuses on specific areas that have the potential to reduce GHG emissions and at the same time deliver significant social impacts, such as zero-carbon neighbourhoods, freight logistics management and green and affordable residential buildings.

It also addresses the capacities needed by local governments to work with a wide range of stakeholders, especially the private sector, in order to lead and deliver innovation that tackles societal problems.

Steven Bland, Climate Change and Innovation specialist, UN-Habitat, said: “By opening the process of defining solutions, rather than predetermining them in a call for proposals, new partnerships and collaborations become available that a local government might otherwise have been unaware of. The facilitated challenge definition design process prompts local governments to understand different local (and internal local government) perspectives on the nature of the challenge being explored.”

During the initial open call phase, each city was invited to share their aspirations to reduce GHG emissions, by identifying local challenges that would benefit from a multi-stakeholder and innovative approach, while also able to strengthen the capacity of local governments to procure, test and implement frontier technologies.

The City of Makindye Ssabagabo said: “Although the green homes concept is being adopted fast in urban cities in Asia, Europe and North America, the innovation is relatively new in Ugandan urban settings and this therefore calls for diverse international expertise with the participation of local stakeholders to pinpoint what will work best in order to reduce GHG emissions.”

The City of Bogotá said: “Solving this challenge demands a change in strategy. Important stakeholders include freight companies, but also research centers and universities, and local populations in peripheral areas, most often affected by the negative impacts of freight traffic.”

The City of Bristol said: “Where innovation is truly needed is in the model used to deliver housing by multiple stakeholders. Solving this problem could support not only housing that is affordable but also housing that meets a diverse need as well as the sustainable development goals, specifically those relating to health and well-being, and sustainable cities and communities.” –

The City of Curitiba said: “Curitiba aims at carbon neutrality in 2050. Improved energy efficiency in buildings will have to play a key role. One way to pursue carbon neutrality is by establishing zero-carbon areas in the city of Curitiba. The innovation competition will help identify and test a broad spectrum of low-carbon solutions in an integrated manner.”

At the local level, challenge-driven innovation helps to achieve sustainable development goals. Challenge competitions can contribute to the development of mission-oriented policies, by connecting multidisciplinary expertise and cross-sectoral perspectives with societal needs. City leaders are able to ensure that Innovative solutions, originated from challenges, are directed towards improving people’s lives in cities.

Olle Armstrand Dierks, Portfolio Strategist, Viable Cities said: “A real-world test might even help reach a tipping point to behaviour change when involving many citizens in it, thus influencing many others. It enables transformative approaches to solve multiple societal challenges in an integrated and holistic way. A testbed can also demonstrate an emerging technology for regulators and engage regulators and policymakers in anticipating and shaping new regulations.”

UN-Habitat and partners are working closely to deliver operational, normative and financial support, in order to co-create solutions that will drive positive change and contribute to climate change mitigation and energy efficiency in cities.

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